Two More Gill Operations Show Identical Tactics In Colorado
Two Colorado 527 organizations, Coalition for Colorados Future (CCF) and the Community Information Project (CIP), are part of a small circle of only three political groups that have received major financial backing from local liberal figurehead Tim Gill for the 2012 election cycle. In addition to the Colorado Accountable Government Alliance (CAGA), a liberal political group recently exposed by Media Trackers for extreme campaign tactics and last-minute financial woes, these two Gill-backed organizations also show nearly identical funding and operations structures throughout the state.
Like CAGA, the CCF and the CIP are registered as political 527?s in Colorado by Julie Wells. All three groups were created in December of 2010 and continued with minimal activity for a year and a half until the last three months when both contribution and expenditure activity increased exponentially across the board. Last month,Media Trackers report CAGAs expenditures rising from an average of $20,000 a month to $1.8 million in September and October, and increase of nearly 500 percent.
Both the Coalition for Colorados Future and the Community Information Project paralleled CAGA in a nearly identical expenditure trend. From January 2011 through July of 2012, CCF reported in its campaign finance filings a steady average of just over $15,000 a month in small expenses. In the last three months, expenditure receipts totaled over $1 million for August, September, and October. Likewise, CIP filed a mere $500 in average expenses since January of 2011. However, the group spent $312,000, $487,000, and $1,000,000 in August, September, and October respectively.
The Gill Action Fund, the political 501(c)4 side of the Gill Foundation, acted as the catalyst for the exponential increase on the contribution side of the financial filings by the Coalition for Colorados Future and the Community Information Project. Gill provided $125,000 in cash to CCF and $150,000 to CIP to directly fund both groups opposition campaign operations. As reported my Media Trackers, CAGA also received $250,000 from Gill Action, making Tim Gill the single largest donor for all three groups.
Like CAGA, Coalition for Colorados Future and the Community Information Project used the vast majority of their funding to pay out-of-state consultants to flood local state races in Colorado with direct mail pieces and robo calls. To do so, the two groups established Independent Expenditure (IE) Committees on August 3 of this year the same date matching CAGAs IE committee registration. These IE Committees are funded entirely by their groups respective 527 sides.
The Coalition for Colorados Future raised a total of $3 million and gave $1.4 million to its IE Committee. Top donors to CCF were all out-state-groups, including the NEA Advocacy Fund, the SEIU, Fair Share Action, and the Democratic Party all giving over $100,000. Education Reform Now Advocacy, a pro-union group from New York, donated $300,000. CAGA is also reported as contributing $12,500 to its liberal partner.
The money given to Coalition for Colorados Future was used to pay Adelstein Liston, a Chicago consultant, for direct mail hit pieces in four local state representative and senate races. Money was also channeled to a Washington, D.C. based shop, Zata3 Consulting, for robo calls to Colorado. Progress Now Colorado was paid over $8,000 for creating and maintaining the website allegedly used by CCF. However, Media Trackers has yet to be able to locate a website associated with the group. Local candidates opposed by CCF were Larry Crowder, Davide Kerber, Ken Summers, and Lang Sias. Each of these races were flooded with over $100,000 in opposition research and negative campaigning.
Coalition for Colorados Future also showed similar trends to CAGA when it came to mandatory campaign finance reports and spending. The group failed to file proper disclosure reports back in June and faced a resulting delinquency and fine with the Secretary of States office. CCF also reported a $50,000 negative balance in its last required report before the election. This deficit was twice the size of CAGAs, which also spent more money than it had in its October 29 report.
Community Information Project received $1.3 million in donations, while transferring $700,000 to the IE Committee. The Project also shows use of out-of-state contributions going to other out-of-state expenditures in order to affect local Colorado races. Top contributors were nearly identical to both Coalition for Colorados Future and CAGAs donors: local and out-of-state unions, educational advocacy groups, and the Democratic Party.
The Community Information Project posted a zero balance in its last disclosure report before the election, though the group has faced two different delinquencies in the last few months, failing to file timely reports in both June and October.
Follow Kyle Forti on Twitter: @kyleforti